Scientists tested blood samples from 15% of Iceland's population - more than 30,000 people - for antibodies to COVID-19
About one percent of the population was infected in the pandemic's first wave
Among those who had antibodies, the immune cells lasted about four months
The scientists found that a 'second wave' of antibodies kicks up one to two months after infection and can likely offer longer-lasting protection
Previous studies suggested the immune cells may last three months or less
The Iceland study offers hope that, if a vaccine triggers an antibody response, the resulting protection could be long-lasting
Antibodies that people make to fight the new coronavirus last for at least four months after diagnosis and do not fade quickly as some earlier reports suggested, scientists have found.
The new report, from tests on more than 30,000 people in Iceland, is the most extensive work yet on the immune system's response to the virus over time, and is good news for efforts to develop vaccines.
Prior studies have suggested that even robust antibody responses might be short-lived - most indicate the immune cells linger for about three months, with some finding the cells fade within weeks - or be nearly non-existent in people who became mildly ill.
If a vaccine can spur production of long-lasting antibodies as natural infection seems to do, it gives hope that 'immunity to this unpredictable and highly contagious virus may not be fleeting,' scientists from Harvard University and the U.S. National Institutes of Health wrote in a commentary published with the study in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday.
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